Why did they die
-these northern lads
On Culloden field?
Fifteen hundred
Sets of bones
Embrace in a peat blanket
Mingled by moles
Stained brown by
Tartan water

Some say they died for noble things;
For freedom
That they charged into bloody mist
To rid this hallowed soil
Of the English


I say they died like all poor soldiers do;
To make rich men richer
They died at the string
Of some puppet king
Their blood was paid for power

Perhaps like ours,
Their culture held in high esteem
The glory of a killing
They like we thrilled to see
The gushing blood of the other

There will be more massed graves before we are through
More mixed clans to fill them


4 thoughts on “Culloden…

  1. I like your poem very much, very evocative of this extraordinary memorial ground. I hope you will forgive this small clarification of the history. The Jacobite Risings were pivotal points in the story of the Scottish Episcopal Church which had been caught up with the cause of the Stuart kings. Although the institutional Episcopal Church took no part in the Jacobite Risings the majority of those seeking to restore the Stuarts to the throne were Episcopalian. The Jacobite army in the 1715 Rising, apart from a small Roman Catholic element, was almost all Episcopalian, perhaps as much as seventy per cent. The source of their discontent was that when the English executed Charles 1 they did so without consulting the Scots; he was after all their consecrated king too. What influenced them was not the political “to rid this hallowed soil of the English”, but rather “they died for nobler things”. They loved the Episcopal church, a national church that presented an apostolic and scriptural form of Christianity, rather than the the kind of fanaticism that was prevalent about this time. They identified politically with an exiled sovereign simply because their church was linked to the episcopal consecration of the the House of Stuart. The saddest story of the uprising in this connection is that of the Reverend Robert Lyon. He was assistant priest in Perth who became chaplain to Prince Charles’ army, at his own expense, throughout the campaign. After Culloden, he was arrested, found guilty of high treason and of “levying war”, even though he had never carried a weapon of any sort. He was was hanged at Penrith in 1746. I agree with the overall sentiment of your poem about the tragedy of war. As you say, “they died like all poor soldiers do.”

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